Background: There is evidence of higher prevalence of asthma in populations of lower socio-economic status in affluent societies, and the prevalence of asthma is also very high in some Latin American countries, where societies are characterized by a marked inequality in wealth. This study aimed to examine the relationship between estimates of asthma prevalence based on surveys conducted in children in Brazilian cities and health and socioeconomic indicators measured at the population level in the same cities.
Methods: We searched the literature in the medical databases and in the annals of scientific meeting, retrieving population-based surveys of asthma that were conducted in Brazil using the methodology defined by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. We performed separate analyses for the age groups 6-7 years and 13-14 years. We examined the association between asthma prevalence rates and eleven health and socio-economic indicators by visual inspection and using linear regression models weighed by the inverse of the variance of each survey.
Results: Six health and socioeconomic variables showed a clear pattern of association with asthma. The prevalence of asthma increased with poorer sanitation and with higher infant mortality at birth and at survey year, GINI index and external mortality. In contrast, asthma prevalence decreased with higher illiteracy rates.
Conclusion: The prevalence of asthma in urban areas of Brazil, a middle income country, appears to be higher in cities with more marked poverty or inequality.